The air was buzzing aboard the Eternal Crusader.
News had reached the vessel regarding the gathering storm of Chaos and its recent aftermath only a few months prior, but the information had finally settled in. Forbidden thoughts and squalid itches writhed around the skulls of everyone aboard – no degree of purity was safe from these differing ideas, no level of rank could hide from the rising disquiet. Grimaldus hurried through the corridors towards the High Marshal’s conference hall; he had been summoned, as with many others of the Household, to put an end to indecision. To change the fate and future of the Black Templars.
Words spun around in Grimaldus’ head, he formed them in his mouth, practicing and repeating the borderline heresy he felt he was about to commit. The lenses of his helmet flickered with communication runes; he was late, but he blink-clicked them away without a second thought. In his wake, further unrest spread as the initiates and neophytes of the Crusade noticed Grimaldus’ hurried pace. Should he quicken to avoid being seen, or slow to appear casual? He was garbed in full battle plate, nothing here looks casual – he hurried further until a chill shot down his spine as a single, glaring red rune appeared in his visor, the one he did not wish to see: Helbrecht himself was trying to contact him.
“Where is the High Chaplain?” a Sword Brother exclaimed, speaking out of turn but the unrest among the High Marshal’s personal council called for it.
“I do not know,” Helbrecht shook his head slowly, swiping away the outgoing communication from the holo-table, “we shall begin, Grimaldus can catch up as necessary… Brother Lamorak, you have the floor”. A figure stood from the table clad in full battleplate as they all were, but he was still a stocky individual,
“My Lord,” he started with a curt, respectful nod, “as we all know, the Celestinian Crusade was a,” he caught his throat, “failure in many regards, Cadia burns, and our Crusade was culled to a man,” Lamorak gestured to a large display of Macragge, homeworld of their Brother-Chapter, the Ultramarines, “Marshal Amalrich survived, taking up the Black Sword of his Crusade and vowing to die in the name of the Emperor”
“In His name,” the conclave intoned,
“Last known records come from Macragge herself, where Marshal Amalrich was forced to bend the knee to,” Lamorak hesitated, he was about to utter words that just two months prior would have been hysterical, “a revived Lord Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines and-”
The chamber doors burst open, a looming figure strode through. His leering skull-faced helm scanned around the room, finding a seat and advancing towards it. Brother Lamorak was clearly caught off-guard, pausing in amazement.
A voice erupted from the ensemble, “High Chaplain, so good of-” but was silenced with a slashing gesture from High Marshal Helbrecht.
“… as I was saying,” continued Lamorak, “Marshal Amalrich bent the knee to Lord Guilliman, and his current fate is unknown, presumed lost.”
Silence descended on the group. Many waited for Grimaldus, the spiritual leader of the whole Black Templars Chapter and Hero of Helsreach to speak, yet Grimaldus himself was still trying to bide his time.
“High Chaplain, if you please,” Helbrecht beckoned,
“Roboute Guilliman is not our Lord, let me make that clear,” Grimaldus stood, imposing his impressive frame on the gathering, “he was revived using Xenos witchcraft – how can we trust him? We know the Eldar are a tricksy, volatile race, so why would they not take and latch on to a chance to corrupt one who would become the steward of the Golden Throne?”
Whispers began passing lips, Grimaldus let the chatter settle as he pondered on his next move.
“Even if Guilliman is of sound mind, he has created legions of his own new breed of Space Marines… legions of them, they outnumber any other Chapter thrice over and he is steadily replacing numbers with these puppet-soldiers! … and let’s not forget the fate of the Word Bearers…”
“Traitors! Heretics! You … you dare to compare us to them?” Brother Vance bounded out of his seat, but he caught his tongue too late. The atmosphere was humming with the barely-contained rage the Black Templars were so well known for. The room awaited Grimaldus’ retaliation, but it did not come.
“Do any of you know of ancient history?” he paused, waiting for an answer he knew would never come, “the Word Bearers were loyal once, just as all were, but they were chastised for their religious view of the Emperor – chastised by Roboute Guilliman himself. Do you really think ten thousand years of stasis would change this? Do you? We know our ideals are true, that our faith is strong and our loyalty to the one true Emperor is utterly unwavering, but does Guilliman?”
Where Grimaldus expected deafening roars of defiance, none came. Silence descended on the council, even Helbrecht himself was unflinching.
“It is only a matter of time before we suffer the same fate; the same brand of shame and mark of fallacy. It is only a matter of time before the distraction that holds Guilliman’s gaze has been quelled, and he looks within for the weak links in the imperial chain.
Grimaldus unsheathed his infamous plasma pistol and slammed it on the table, cracking the marblework. Unnatural quiet spread again, save for the faint chiming of chains adorning Grimaldus’ pistol and armour coming to rest, “I would bet any piece of gear or armour, blessed by our ancestors, that we will be held accountable for our zeal.”
The High Marshal stood easily, calmly, a complete antithesis to the Helbrecht everyone knew.
“Dismissed,” he muttered, “I need to speak to the High Chaplain alone”.
“What are you saying?” Helbrecht continued his unusual solemnity.
“We need help,” replied Grimaldus, he removed his helmet to reveal his scarred face and dark, cropped air. The service studs on his forehead glistened with the sweat of his nerves – the mere fact that a Space Marine would ever be nervous was an incredible thought, “the Golden Legion have been mobilized, their eagerness to go back to war in the Emperor’s name has left the Imperial Palace severely undermanned thanks to the invitation of Guilliman. We need to seek conference with the Captain-General of the Legio Custodes, although this will be difficult…”
“What would Dorn do?” Helbrecht asked, partly with genuine inquisition; Grimaldus was well versed in ancient histories thanks to his mentor, Mordred. Grimaldus raised the fondest chuckle he could muster,
“My Lord, if Dorn had his way, we would still be wearing gruel-yellow armour”
Helbrecht cracked a smile, but Grimaldus continued,
“Even in the dark days after the heresy… Dorn and Guilliman almost started another calamity, until Lord Dorn yielded. It takes a brave warrior to stand up in the face of adversity and insurmountable odds, but it takes a legendary figure to back down in the face of what might become… he was right to submit to Guilliman at the time, but only for the greater good of the Imperium, not the greater good of the future.”
Helbrecht nodded, taking a seat on his command throne and bringing an armoured thumb and forefinger to his chin, scraping his stubble, “I do not want to be branded as outcasts… heretics. Even the thought of going renegade and flying under the radar of Guilliman’s regime makes me sick to my stomach, and open warfare is suicide.”
“Suicide? Or Martyrdom?”
Helbrecht smiled once more, little knowning that this would be the last one for a long time. Grimaldus took the knee before his High Marshal,
“Death to the False Primarch,” he whispered.
Black Templars have been a long-time favourite army of mine throughout the course of my 40K ‘career’ but I, as I am sure many other zealous Black Templar players would agree, was amazed and appalled at the outcome of A Gathering Storm. Firstly, the fact that a Black Templar Marshal was forced to bend the knee (granted, I know this was a sign of respect since he had landed on Macragge, but the way the story went about it was just wrong). Second, throughout the whole story too, Black Templars seemed to be failures, which was incredible – I do not care that they lost, not at all, but through Cadia Falls they seemed like they couldn’t do anything right! Lastly, Guilliman himself – I’m sure the Sons of Dorn would not be best pleased about the return (and subsequent stewardship) of Roboute Guilliman, especially the Black Templars – the similarities between my beloved Chapter and the Word Bearers is, unfortunately, disturbing to say the least – and now the very Primarch who punished them is back among the living!
Yes, I hate the big blue, the papa smurf, the call-him-what-you-want, and I doubt the Black Templars would take such matters lying down…